Wed. Jul 6th, 2022

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly shot down two hotly debated Republican bills – one banning transgender athletes from girls’ sports, and another forcing schools to let parents challenge classroom curriculum – setting up a fierce campaign conflict for the first-term governor who faces re-election in November.

“We all want a fair and safe place for our kids to play and compete,” the Democrat wrote in a Friday veto message on the trans athlete ban. “However, this bill came from politicians trying to score political points.”

Republicans vowed to launch an override effort in the coming weeks.

“The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act is about just that, fairness,” said GOP Senate President Ty Masterson. “It simply sets guidelines that ensure the fair playing field continues for women that we have recognized for decades.”

The bill would have kept biologically male students out of girls ‘and women’s sports teams from elementary school to college – but would not prevent biological females from competing on boys’ teams, legislators noted.

That’s because, Kansas GOP lawmakers have said, transgender women have an inherent advantage over athletes who were born female – citing the controversial case of champion NCAA swimmer Lia Thomas as evidence.

Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly, right, answers questions from reporters during news conference as Lt.  Gov.  Lynn Rogers, left, watches, Thursday, Nov.  8, 2018.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly faces re-election this fall.
AP Photo / John Hanna
Lia Thomas of University of Pennsylvania celebrates with her teammates after winning the 400 yard freestyle team relay at the WomenÕs Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships at Harvard University.
University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas caused controversy after dominating at women’s events in the Ivy League championships.
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

At least a dozen other states have limited trans girls’ participation in female sports. Kelly rejected a similar bill in 2021, citing the prospect of potential boycotts of Kansas businesses as a reason.

Kelly’s second veto nixed the establishment of a “parent’s bill of rights” in education that would have required school districts to consider parental challenges against books in school libraries or material taught in classrooms.

Supporters promoted the bill as a way to combat allegations that Kansas teachers were using critical race theory in their classrooms, another hot-button social issue roiling school districts across the country.

Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly answers questions during an interview with The Associated Press at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan.  Kelly was scheduled to be sworn in as the state's 48th governor Monday, Jan.  14, 2019,
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly accused Republicans of “trying to score political points.”
AP Photo / John Hanna, File
University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete Lia Thomas competes in a preliminary heat of the 500 meter freestyle at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships Thursday, March 17, 2022, at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Thomas competed at the 500 meter freestyle event at the NCAA swimming championships in Atlanta on March 17, 2022.
AP Photo / John Bazemore

Republicans immediately sought to make the vetoes a campaign liability for Kelly, who won the governorship in 2018 with just 48 percent of the vote in the purple-trending state.

“Dems in Kansas are determined to find out the hard way what Dems in Virginia learned: voters do not elect candidates who tell parents they do not matter,” tweeted Joanna Rodrigueza spokeswoman for the Republican Governors Association.

Republican Glenn Youngkin won a resounding victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race last year on a platform touting parental rights in education.

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